Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Flutter of Snowbird Wings in South Florida

It was shopping day today. If I kept a journal on shopping day every week I could probably do a written version of funniest home videos. The traffic was extra heavy at one particular intersection today.

One direction from this intersection goes to the Red Sox spring training stadium. Another direction goes to the Twins spring training stadium. Past the Twins stadium will take you to the beaches and barrier islands so it gets kind of busy. Even when the Twins and Red Sox aren’t in town there is often something going on at the stadiums.

Starting at about a quarter of a mile from the intersection the traffic was crawling, I had to make a left turn to go past the Twins stadium and toward the beaches to get my wife to work. To give an idea of how busy this intersection is, there are three through lanes, one right turn lane and two left turn lanes in both directions of the highway that I was on. The cross highway has two through lanes and two turn lanes in both directions.

I finally got into the tail-end of the line-up in one of the two left turn lanes. The green arrow came on for left turns. The driver in front of me didn’t move. His head was down.

He had either fallen asleep, which is very possible in congestion like we were dealing with, or he was making use of a smart phone at a stupid time. It was remotely possible the he had broken down but at those times a driver’s head is usually darting around with the anxiety of what to do next. It was also possible that he was engaged in a self-massage of rapid reciprocal motion but he looked way too relaxed for that.

I always dislike horn blasters in these situations. A solid and long horn is blast is just another way of cursing someone. “Get that $@#**% car out the way you &%@*# idiot,” might be typical translation.

My preference is a soft beep, beep and beep. This translates to “Hey… did you fall asleep?” Or maybe, “Time to put down smart phone and drive.”

When I did the beep, beep and beep, the driver’s head popped up and he accelerated toward the intersection and our left turn just in time to meet a red light. We stopped and waited through another light cycle. He head went down again which put my vote in favor of his using the smart phone at a stupid time.

I guess that it could have been worse. I might have been rear-ended by another smart phone user while the one in front of me held me in position for taking it in the behind. Would you call that getting sandwiched?

When the light changed again the guy’s head popped up without a sound of my horn and he barked his tires as he accelerated away from me. He put some distance between us. I guess he was afraid that I was one of those road rage types that might catch up to him and flip him off. It was no surprise that about half of the traffic took a right into the Twins stadium.

At least the smart phone guy had local tags on his car. I’ve often thought of writing a snowbird handbook to help the locals better understand and deal with northerners who come to south Florida for the winter. It would be full of short tips something like this.

If you see a car with Yankee license plates then expect him to do something stupid. It’s not his fault that he had to cut across three lanes in front of you to make a turn. He saw the set of three sequential directional signs saying that there was a left turn coming to get to the beach. He just didn't realize that he should get into the left lane at least a few hundred feet before he got to the intersection. They don’t do it that way in New England.

If a car pulls out from a side street and then pokes along in front of you, try to be patient. He is probably just awed by the palm trees planted in the median. They don’t have those in the Adirondacks of New York where he is from.

If the driver of a luxury car with Yankee plates does something aggressive, that puts you in danger, just get over it. He fancies himself as entitled.

If you’re waiting to fuel up your car and the old man that gets out of the car in front of you is wearing a wide brimmed hat, clip-on sunglasses, a Columbia shirt, baggy khaki Bermuda shorts, knee socks and sandals then have some patience. He will likely take longer to run his credit card at the pump than you will take to fuel up, do your grocery shopping and get a haircut.

If you see that same old man at the supermarket heading for the check-out at the same time as you then you had better yield to him. He’ll run over your heels to be first to the register.

If an old woman comes up to you in a supermarket or department store asking where to find something, the safest thing to do is say, with a fake accent, “Eh… sorry… no Ingles.” Otherwise, you could be there for hours looking for cinnamon-flavored Metamucil “in those little packets.”

If your supermarket sets up those little stations with someone handing out free samples of food items then don’t go down that aisle. The snowbirds in south Florida go to the supermarket for free brunch. It wouldn’t be so bad if they would just take a sample and move on.

Oh no, they’re like hogs at the trough. They have to have a conversation long enough to get a second sample. The fat ones will be stuffing the third sample into their face while they’re grabbing the fourth. There I am behind them going “beep, beep and beep.”

Remember that old man wearing a wide brimmed hat, clip-on sunglasses, a Columbia shirt, baggy khaki Bermuda shorts, knee socks and sandals at the fuel pumps? He’s even slower when trying to decide which flavor to try first.

Your ice cream could melt and be leaking from the carton before you get through. I've had lettuce wilt before I could get to the safety of the check-out line. On my worst day, the sweet potatoes sprouted and sent vines all through the shopping cart. I had to run next door to the hardware store and buy a machete in order to unload the cart onto the check-out conveyor.

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